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Topic: Bruce Richardson and everybody

  1. #1

    Bruce Richardson and everybody


    Listening on your website - what are some of the key steps to creating that level of space and air in your music? If most of those comps contain a large amount of live instruments, that might explain it to some degree.

    How much of the air and space you achieve is just simple panning? Do you always try to pan to realisim? ie. where instruments are typically placed on the stage?

    What is your usual effects template for sample instrument compositions? How do you usually apply reverb/EQ - and what reverb/eq do you use? Maybe the less effects the better in most cases?

    For someone just learning how to apply effects - what approach would you recommend. ie. just start using a straight reverb and then progress to convolution etc?


  2. #2
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 1999
    Dallas, Texas

    Re: Bruce Richardson and everybody

    Hi Joanne,

    Short of writing a book in response, I can only offer up a few basics which can hopefully get you going. People spend a lifetime becoming really great engineers (I am not particularly a great engineer, just functional and a quick study). So, there are thousands of tricks that people use to make mixes sound great.

    In general, when you are creating a recording, you are creating a space from scratch.

    So, the first thing you want to decide is the size of the space, and where you want the "listener" to be within it.

    Then, you need to make your source tracks conform to that idea.

    Using samples is tricky, because you don't have control over the microphone placement. A stereo-recorded sample recorded at close range will have a significant amount of "spread" between the speakers--which will make it sound intimate and close to you. If you want to make such a sound seem farther away, you have to imagine how that intervening air would affect the source of the sound, and emulate that.

    Say it's a clarinet. If a real clarinet player were in the room, two feet from you, the sound would be wide in your perception, warm, with all frequencies hitting your ears. If you told your clarinet player to stand ten feet from you, the sound would be thinner, and it would simultaneously be more focused to a smaller spot in the room, while the sound of the room's response would be more prominent and spread around you. Imagine it to be a pebble dropped in a swimming pool...the ripples would come from a tiny point, but they'd be bouncing over the entire pool and back over each other.

    So, this is where your panning, EQ, and reverb come in.

    Say this clarinet sample were recorded in the close-stereo position...but you want it to sound as if it were 15 feet from you and to the left, sitting in a woodwind section.

    First, just throw away one of the stereo channels. Why? Because you will never be able to avoid the impression of a 30-foot wide clarinet when you start adding the reverb. You'll want it to be a mono source.

    Now, pan it to the position you want it to occupy. It's coming from the right location between the speakers now, but is still too "fat" to sound plausibly far away.

    Here's where you start simulating the effect of air. Audio quite literally burns up traveling through air--the farther away from a particular instrument you are, the more it is going to lose its weaker overtones. Only the strongest and most fundamental survive the distance. So, your clarinet needs to "lose" some of the content that is not at the "core" of its tessitura. I'd set a lowpass filter to 3k and a highpass filter to 300 hz, and start reducing those ranges. Try 6 db at this point. Your imaginary player should start sounding a little thinner and farther away.

    The last step is to simulate the behavior of the room. This is where reverb is used. Early reflections give us cues as to where the walls are. Remember our pebble in the pool? The early reflections are the first set of ripples that have bounced off the edge of the pool, and returned to the "source."

    But the ripples don't stop when they come back to the place where the pebble fell in. They keep going, and bouncing and re-bouncing, until all the surface is covered in a complex interlocking pattern of hundreds, then thousands of ripples. The "tail" section of reverb represents this...the amount of time, after the first reflections, that sound continues to bounce around in a room before friction converts it to heat and it dissipates.

    So, setting up the balance of the reflective sound to the tail sound in the reverb also becomes a part of your soundstage design.

    Convolution achieves much the same as traditional reverb. In fact, most convolvers now have traditional reverb controls which alter an envelope over the impulse waveform to "sculpt" differences in the early reflections and tail components of the recorded impulse.

    See what I mean about this being complicated?

    I think that I've covered the essential basics. You just need to imagine what kind of space you want to create, compare the tracks you have with how those instruments would behave in real air, and then make the panning, eq, and reverb decisions which will accomplish that goal.

    Engineering wise, the single thing to remember is that EQ and panning are filters. You are filtering components of sound which are in excess of what you need to make your concept work. So, in using them, always imagine "taking away" what is keeping the sound from working, rather than adding something to make it work. Subtle distinction, but a very important one.

  3. #3

    Re: Bruce Richardson and everybody

    I'm happy your here, Bruce! You explain it so well.

    Quite frankly, I think a camcorder, a mic and you speaking would be wonderful tutorials...on music, of course.

    You can leave the 'how to make a bloody mary' for the Bloody Mary forum.
    Steve Hanlon, guitarist/composer
    Logic 7, PowerMac DP 2.0 (8- RAM slot model), 4GB RAM, OS 10.4.11
    UAD-1 Ultra Pak
    Lots of V.I. and sound effects
    Apogee Rosetta 200
    Great River ME-1NV
    Blue Sky Monitors

  4. #4

    Re: Bruce Richardson and everybody


    Perfect level of explanation and thank you. Listening to your music, you obviously have an exceptional capability with building spaces and direction and placement, and to offer up such clear and easy to follow techniques like this is appreciated and generous.

    I was struggling with the exact points you talked to. My samples are all stereo and therefore impossible to adjust and fine tune the placement to build sense of space. I thought maybe the solution was to double the tracks i.e. have the Violin123 stereo sample panned way right on one track and then take that same violin123 stereo sample on another track panned way left - but all that does is create mud. I thought about somehow converting two stereo tracks to mono, but it appears it's alot easier - just drop one of the stereo tracks.

    I got a hint at the main application of eq when you talked about working general voice audio for your film. EQ makes things closer or farther. This is likely intuitive and obvious to most, but was not to me. Another point - I did always think of eq and thining or taking away, but never thought of "panning" as a taking away effect - as you say, an important concept.

    I download the 15 day free version of WAVE IR1, which I think is the convolution reverb that also traditional reverb that you mentioned. Needless to say, very much looking forward to applying these techniques and again, thank you.


  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Los Angeles

    Re: Bruce Richardson and everybody

    I agree that Bruce's lesson was a model of clarity and extremely helpful. He saved about ten pages there with one of the best explanations of sound I've ever read.

    In Giga 3 you can collapse the stereo image with the width parameter found on each instrument channel. Then you can place the instrument in the room with Gigapulse. Problem is I still don't really get Gigapulse very well (I'm a little slow on that end of things.)


    Any helpful hints on the basic approach to Gigapulse? We should be buying you sixpacks or something.


    Dave Connor

  6. #6

    Re: Bruce Richardson and everybody

    Good question Joanne.
    The sense of space and air in Bruce's near-recent demo of VSL Glass & Stones was the first thing that struck me. I think I commented it on it at the time.

    Bruce, do you ever narrow the stereo field of your samples ?

  7. #7

    Re: Bruce Richardson and everybody

    Thanks David - I unfortunately don't have GS3 and typically use GSv2.5 for strings and gold via kompakt for the rest. I am in the process of trying to figure out how to cut out a stereo channel. My guess is that it needs to be done at the sampler source (SI on GS and Gold via Kompakt are my usual libs) rather than in my Cubase SX sequencer.

    Steve and Drew - although you are likely more advanced in mixing than I am -I guess hearing the basics with clear and creative explanations never gets old. After I heard Bruce's stuff, things I was relatively satisfied with now sound like a muddy jumbled mix of misplaced instruments - but I guess identifying a bad mix is a first step forward.

  8. #8

    Re: Bruce Richardson and everybody


    A very good read! Thanks, Bruce.

  9. #9

    Talking Re: Bruce Richardson and everybody

    Quote Originally Posted by Joanne Babunovic
    Thanks David - I unfortunately don't have GS3 and typically use GSv2.5 for strings and gold via kompakt for the rest. I am in the process of trying to figure out how to cut out a stereo channel.
    Yes, a great writing from Bruce. Do you believe I've been hanging in thin air here since last summer, waiting to hear how to get a mono instrument?

  10. #10

    Re: Bruce Richardson and everybody

    Hi Joanne,

    I'm not a cubase user (I use Nuendo), but can't you just bounce it (export audio) as either a mono file, which will sum left and right, and then import the mono file. Or you could export as a split stereo, then discard the side you don't want to use and import as mono? I think either would work, with a slightly different result.

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